This paper examines the history of English Language Education (ELE) and its societal role in China from 1900 to 1990. Throughout different periods in China's modern history, ELE was associated with key issues, including the revitalization of the declining Qing dynasty, modernization during the Republican era, and Cold War competitions during the Mao era. To investigate the connections between ELE and the political trends and movements in modern China, my research examines textbooks written and used in 1913, 1976, and 1979 China. These texts were implemented under different regimes, showing that the historical and political trends shaped the development of ELE in China by two forces: namely, Western missionaries and Chinese reformers. The Western missionaries promoted ELE in an attempt to expand their colonial influence, while the Chinese reformers and government parties explored strategic ways of learning English to fight against colonization and aid in nation-building throughout the 20th century. I will critically evaluate Robert Phillipson’s theory of linguistic imperialism which interprets English as an imperialistic force of the modern century. Overall, this paper brings to light critical events in modern China that have ultimately established the current status of English in present times. Despite English being openly seen as a colonizing tool by both the Chinese government parties and the Western forces in the 20th century, I argue that ELE helps Chinese language learners come to a deeper sense of self-understanding in terms of their cultural, linguistic, and ethnic identities. Lastly, this paper argues that Phillipson’s theory of linguistic imperialism does not effectively describe the history of ELE within the Chinese contexts where ELE became another form of linguistic nationalism to promote the interests of the nation.
Feng, Olivia (Jia Ming). 2020. "The ‘Real’ Outcomes of Language Learning: The History of English Language Education in China." Bridges: An Undergraduate Journal of Contemporary Connections 4, (1). https://scholars.wlu.ca/bridges_contemporary_connections/vol4/iss1/2